How Good Is Chicago Contract?

Last Friday, UTLA put on an event to demonstrate support for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and held a conference call with CTU delegates who were then still on strike (see Support spreads for CTU Socialist Worker).  Excitement among union leaders and rank-and-file teachers was high.  Accountability-minded reformers were grumbling that the district had given away too much.

Chicago teacher union leader Karen Lewis

The strike is now over, and the Chicago contract indeed includes some teacher-friendly provisions that UTLA would likely applaud.

However, there are some elements of the deal that was hammered out that probably wouldn’t please anyone at UTLA headquarters — specifically the new teacher evaluation provisions. And the reality is that figuring out how to do a citywide teacher evaluation plan that includes student achievement is something that many big districts are trying but no one has figured out.

Continue reading

Morning Read: Deasy Pushes Tablets

LAUSD’s Plan to Fund New Technology LAUSD:  Noting that within three years the State is scheduled to administer its tests electronically – no more paper and pencil – Deasy said the time is now for the District to greatly expand its digital access and capabilities.

Calif. Poised to Spotlight ELLs Stalled in Schools EdWeek: California is poised to become the first state to unmask the extent to which English-language learners languish in public schools for years without ever reaching fluency.

Teacher Evaluations At Center Of Chicago Strike NPR: In California, after the state legislature mandated the use of student progress benchmarks to rate teachers, an education reform group sued the Los Angeles Unified School District to force the issue.

Continue reading

Zimmer Alienating Both Sides

Board Member Steve Zimmer

Just about everyone who watches LAUSD is scratching their heads wondering just what board member Steve Zimmer is doing — lately more than ever.

He’s introduced two incredibly polarizing motions recently– one to reject the use of Academic Growth Over Time in teacher evaluations, and one to provide greater oversight for charter schools and, more importantly, place a moratorium on new charters. (See: Big Moves From Zimmer)

“I’ve know Steve for 20 years,” says David Tokofsky, a former LAUSD board member and current strategist for Associated Administrators Los Angeles. “He’s always trying to bring people together to discuss issues, and somehow, he’s gotten both the unions and the charters to issue fatwas against him.”

Continue reading

Morning Read: Big Drop In New Teachers

Enrollment in new teacher programs down 33 percent since recession hit SI&A Cabinet Report:  Of the teachers that are being trained, half come out of the California State University system with 43 percent graduating from a private or independent university and the remaining 7 percent from the University of California, according to the CTC report.

LAUSD officials scramble to find money for San Pedro Science Center Long Beach Press-Telegram: With district funding gone, Los Angeles school officials are scrambling to find money from other sources to keep the San Pedro Science Center open.

If Principals Can Do It, Why Can’t We? Huffington Post (opinion):  Following the lead of our principals, the next step should be launching a better teacher evaluation and support system for retaining our irreplaceable teachers, helping those who struggle and putting student achievement first.

Continue reading

Concerns About Teacher Talks

Left to right: Scott Witlin, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Ed Voice’s Bill Lucia; Press conference after Doe v. Deasy decision

On Monday, representatives from LAUSD and UTLA met again to discuss teacher evaluations — the 15th session since July 11, when a judge ordered the two sides to develop a new system for evaluating teachers and principals that includes some measure of pupil progress.

Superintendent John Deasy told Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times, “I am anticipating a breakthrough with teachers, and I would say very soon.” (see: Slim chance for teachers strike in L.A., officials say)

But others aren’t so sure. UTLA president Warren Fletcher has repeatedly said that he opposes any use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. And it’s unclear how much progress has been made in the negotiations, from which the Doe v. Deasy plaintiffs have been excluded.

Continue reading

Morning Read: Big Interest In “Race” Money

Uncertainty surrounds many district applications for Race to the Top SI&A Cabinet Report: With just over a month remaining to the deadline, about 80 local educational agencies in California are trying to decide whether to seek a federal Race to the Top grant given the long odds and resources required to even compete for a share of the $400 million award. (See also: LAUSD pursues $40M Race to the Top grant LA Daily News).

Texas adopts CA’s strategy on NCLB waiver, prompting new risk SI&A Cabinet Report: California is no longer the only state trying to get relief from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act without committing to the conditions set down by the Obama administration – Texas is trying to do the same thing.

11 parcel taxes, 44 school bonds on November ballot Ed Source: In this round, however, five of the 11 districts are in Central or Southern California: Santa Barbara Unified, Ventura Unified, and three in Los Angeles County – Centinela Valley Union High School District, Lake City School District (near Whittier), and Westside Union School District (in Quartz Hill).

Deferred Action hopefuls flood LA schools with doc requests Fox News: The LAUSD confirmed that since Aug. 15, when the Deferred Action program went into effect, it has built up a backlog of more than 2,300 requests for transcripts or diplomas. Applicants must prove that they have resided continuously in the country since ..

Continue reading

Update: Folsom Enters Race Against Garcia

Parent activist Scott Folsom (4 LA Kids) suggests that there could be a big change in the makeup of the LAUSD board after the Spring elections — and is throwing his own name into the ring as a candidate (again).

“History tells us school boards prefer to appoint their own superintendent when their membership changes,” writes the Deasy critic (pictured left). “Mayor Tony… is termed out – and his coattails don’t seem to extend into the future.”

Zimmer will face one or several challenges, but Martinez is out and Garcia already has four declared opponents.  Or, make that five.  Folsom has run before — most recently as a District 5 write-in candidate last year.

Morning Read: This Ain’t Chicago

Slim chance for teachers strike in L.A., officials say LA Times: Few observers expect tensions over performance reviews to ignite a strike in Los Angeles, as it did in Chicago, because of myriad differences in conditions surrounding the two cities’ school districts.

Group w/ties to Koch Bros drops $4 million on Prop 32 SF Chronicle:  Look what just arrived in the Friday-afternoon-news-dump: A $4 million contribution to Prop 32, which the unions are freaked out about because it would limit labor’s chief weapon for influencing the state’s politics – political donations – by preventing unions from using automatic payroll deductions from their members.

Charter schools balk at California’s new pre-kindergarten law Associated Press: A California law requires public schools to add a grade level this fall designed to give the very youngest students a boost when they enroll in kindergarten, but charter schools say the law does not apply to them, pitting them against the state Department of Education.

‘Deferred action’ program puts strain on L.A. Unified LA Times: An estimated 200,000 current and former students are potentially eligible for the “deferred action” program of the Obama administration.

LAUSD Reaches Out To Bring Dropout Students Back To School CBS: Members of the Los Angeles Unified School District launched the fifth annual Student Recovery Day Friday morning.

Continue reading

More On Math Scores

We got an interesting email in response to our post about LAUSD’s low math scores from a  Cochran Middle School math teacher named Rustum Jacob, who offers two additional reasons why scores are as low as they are:  more 9th grade students being placed into Geometry, and no real alternatives for 9th graders who aren’t ready for Algebra.

Mr. Jacob’s points (read his email below) are well taken, and we encourage any teachers to share their views with us below or email us with comments from the front lines. Continue reading

Don’t Forget The “Teacher” Trigger

You might be surprised to find out that “Won’t Back Down” — a screening of which I snuck into the other night — isn’t actually the fictionalized story of Desert Trails, site of the real-life still-unfolding parent trigger attempt outside of Los Angeles, or the CA parent trigger law that allows parents to vote to revamp their schools.

It’s actually the fictionalized story of Locke High School, the struggling South Central LA school that in 2007-2008 was wrestled away from the Los Angeles public school system (and the teachers union) by a vote of teachers.

Green Dot founder Steve Barr always said there might be a movie about Locke. Now there is — sort of.

Continue reading

Morning Read: Deasy Pushes Prop 30

LAUSD Superintendent: “If You Don’t Like the Results, Fire Me” NBC: Less than two months from a crucial statewide vote on two propositions that would funnel more money into schools, Deasy made a push. “We’re talking about not being able to complete the school year if this fails in November,” Deasy said.

Georgia team meets with LA officials to reform school discipline KPCC: Los Angeles school, law enforcement and county officials are meeting Thursday with a team from an Atlanta suburb that pioneered methods to reduce on-campus arrests. They hope to create a similar, more holistic system to deal with misbehaving students.

Tamar Galatzan: Outsiders’ protest lacks health knowledge of LAUSD schools Daily News: An editorial by the school board member denounces a June protest against a Planned Parenthood health clinic at Roosevelt High.

African American School Girl Sent Home Over Skin-Tone Tights? LAUSD Defends Itself LA Weekly: A district official tells the Weekly that tights are, in fact, banned under district policy. A letter was subsequently sent to the girl’s mother explaining that dress code, which includes the rule that “no tights shall be worn alone.”

Continue reading

Candidacy Countdown

Want to know who’s filed to run for LAUSD board member next year, and how much cash they’ve gathered for their campaigns?  Click over to the LA City Ethics Commission’s website: 2013 Municipal and LAUSD Election. Below is a snapshot from yesterday evening showing the three LAUSD races for 2013 (towards the bottom).
District 2 is the seat currently held by Monica Garcia.  District 4 is the seat currently held by Steve Zimmer.  District 6 is the seat currently held by Nury Martinez. Both Zimmer and Garcia are running for re-election. Martinez is running for City Council, so her seat is open. The deadline to file for candidacy is November 10.

Why HS Math Scores Are Low(er)

When the California standardized test scores were released last week, the Daily News lauded LAUSD for “its best showing ever.” Superintendent John Deasy gave the district (and himself) a pat on the back, saying, “We’ve put a great deal of emphasis in this district on English-language arts, we’ve put a great deal of emphasis on reclassifying our English-learners (in language fluency) and we’ve put a great deal of emphasis in terms of algebra.”

This is all good news.  But scores for Algebra, which is usually taught in high school, looked pretty dismal by comparison even though they were showing improvement.  Why are high school students so bad at math, and what if anything can LAUSD do about this? I put that question to Mark Ellis, a Professor of Secondary Education at Cal State Fullerton who specializes in mathematics, and he gave me some interesting answers.

Continue reading

Morning Read: Zimmer Revising

LAUSD board member Zimmer to revise charter schools proposal after protests Daily Breeze:  Los Angeles Unified board member Steve Zimmer vowed Tuesday to revise his controversial charter schools resolution after nearly a dozen speakers and an overflow crowd voiced strident opposition to his plan to study tougher oversight.

Defiance: the all-purpose word that drives kids out of school Witness LA: Initial data from an ongoing UCLA study seems to suggest that suspending problem students does little to promote a healthier educational environment in schools. By engaging troublemakers instead of ostracizing them, the performance of the entire school receives a boost.

Parking problems a hazard at new Porter Ranch Community School Daily News: The new $56 million Porter Ranch Community School is winning raves for its innovative curriculum and architecture, but it’s also raising safety concerns because of a parking crunch that’s emerged since the K-8 school opened a month ago.

Substitute Teacher from Cerritos Found Not Guilty in Student Molestation Case Patch: A 29-year-old substitute teacher from Cerritos charged earlier this year with one misdemeanor count of child molestation involving a Los Coyotes Middle School student was found not guilty by a 12-person jury last month.

Middle Schooler Booted from Class for Wearing Brown Leggings, Posing As Pantsless LAist: An 11-year-old honors student at Mount Gleason Middle School in Sunland was allegedly kicked out of class Friday for wearing brown leggings that too closely resembled her skin tone.

Continue reading

Johnson Not Running – Who Will?

Non-candidate Brian Johnson

The latest news is that Brian Johnson, the former Teach For America (TFA) Los Angeles executive director who ran for and lost a close race for state assembly (right), isn’t going to run for the LAUSD school board.

This spring there are three spots coming open on the board — including another TFA alumnus, Steve Zimmer. The other two spots are Nury Martinez (see: Martinez Running for City Council) and Monica Garcia (see: Garcia’s First Half Charter School Money).

No one really expected Johnson to run, and I’m told that nobody pays much attention to board races until after the state referendum season is done, and that makes sense.   But soon comes showdown time, when folks have to decide whether to run or not, and what their positions are going to be, and everyone has to start throwing money at them.

Morning Read: Agreement In Principal

L.A. Unified, union OK system of evaluating principals LA Times: Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy announced the one-year agreement with the administrators’ union Tuesday, calling it a “remarkable breakthrough.” The one-year time period will give both sides time to work out details of the system, according to AALA President Judith Perez. Other coverage of the agreement is in The Daily News (LAUSD has tentative deal with administrators on teacher evaluations) and KPCC (LAUSD and administrators’ union reach tentative deal on student test scores in evals).

Charter campuses focus of L.A. school-board protests LA Times: About 400 charter school advocates descended on Los Angeles school district headquarters Tuesday to protest a proposed moratorium on new charters. Later, a smaller but equally passionate contingent of parents and teachers from Berendo Middle School arrived to oppose construction of a building to house a charter school on that campus. See also my story on the board meeting yesterday (Zimmer Postpones His Teacher Evaluation Proposal), as well as a piece in The Atlantic (Chicago Teachers Strike Puts Charter Schools in the Spotlight).

LA mayor backs weighing student performance in evaluating teacher quality CNN: The Los Angeles Unified School District has been reviewing a system of teacher and administrator evaluations that, for the first time, includes student test scores, said spokeswoman Ellen Morgan.

Continue reading

Zimmer Postpones His Teacher Evaluation Proposal

A number of parents and teachers showed up to today’s jam-packed school board meeting to denounce board member Steve Zimmer’s proposal to reject Academic Growth Over Time (or AGT) as a measurement of pupil progress in teacher evaluations. About six or seven of them wore t-shirts reading, “SHAME ON YOU ZIMMER.”

They never got their chance to speak, however. Zimmer decided to postpone the item at least until the next board meeting on October 9. “There’s even a lot of stress around this,” he said “That’s appropriate. This is one of the most important things we will do.”

Debates on other school board items turned a bit tense during the rest of the meeting.  These included a turf feud between two schools over sharing space and a short video that left one board member feeling left out. The only big item over which there was no real dispute was the resolution against Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from automatically deducting money from their members paychecks and spending that money on political contributions.

Continue reading

How Chicago Isn’t Like Wisconsin

There’s a teachers’ strike in Chicago, in case you hadn’t heard.

And, not surprisingly, lots of media and campaign folks are trying to make national and political connections — linking the Chicago strike to last year’s showdown in Wisconsin, or the so-called “war on teachers” being conducted by so-called “school reformers,” or the November elections).

Below are some things to keep in mind before you buy into the national comparisons being made — and some admittedly loose LAUSD comparisons that might be worth considering.  There’s also a roundup of national coverage of the strike, if you feel like wading in on your own.

Continue reading

Today’s Board Meeting

August 2012 LAUSD Board Meeting 

As we previewed yesterday (Big Moves From Zimmer), today’s likely big board meeting items relate to Steve Zimmer proposals to change the way schools’ academic growth are measured and to implement a moratorium on charters until better oversight is in place. KPCC has a story this morning about the charter school proposal: Does the quality of charter schools need to be improved?

You can scan the agenda here, or watch it on your computer here (depending on your browser and internet connection). I will be tweeting updates from @LASchoolReport. After the meeting is over, you can listen to the archived audio of the meeting.

Morning Read: Stronger Teachers Report

State education report calls for sweeping reforms in teacher evaluation Daily News: The California Department of Education on Monday released a comprehensive new report calling for sweeping reforms in the way teachers are recruited, trained, mentored and evaluated.

Far-reaching plan to strengthen teaching in California EdSource: Some of the ideas are bold and will be controversial…Others will sound familiar.

Labor, management collaboration key to teacher reform SI&A Cabinet Report:  Ushering in what is being called a new era of education reform in California, top administrators, teachers, political and labor leaders said Monday they are willing to work together to implement suggestions for bettering the state’s schools.

Continue reading